Samantha Strowbridge, a junior officer with Atlantic Towing, speaks to people gathered at the opening of Oil and Gas Week at the Marine Institute Monday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
One message prevailed in speeches and presentations at the kickoff for Oil and Gas Week 2013: opportunities welcome.
The educational theme week is jointly sponsored by three levels of government, educational institutions, the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The official launch was held at the Fisheries and Marine Institute in St. John’s Monday.
In front of about 160 students and industry representatives in a lecture hall, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe welcomed industry workers, encouraging students from near and far to look locally for career opportunities in oil and gas.
“Remember— the oil and gas industry needs you as young, talented, skilled people. The oil and gas industry needs you just as much as we need it. And together, the future of Newfoundland and Labrador and the future of this city is absolutely rosy,” he said.
Already working in the offshore, Samantha Strowbridge from Grand Bank had her job with Atlantic Towing before ever graduating from the Marine Institute’s nautical science program in June 2012.
She was back at school Monday, giving the keynote address at the Oil and Gas Week launch.
“Working in the offshore is an excellent place to work. I can still live at home in Grand Bank with all of my family and friends and the leave system is excellent,” she said.
Strowbridge was awarded an Oil and Gas Week scholarship in 2012, and four $1,000 scholarships were awarded this year, following her address.
One went to Andrew Blanchard, a MUN student in his third year of study in the university’s process engineering program.
Blanchard has completed two work terms to date as part of his program, the last in Alberta. He said he is now searching locally for a third placement, expected to start this summer.
He acknowledged oil companies pay for equipment and sponsor events for students in his program. “In my program there’s a lot of sponsorship by different companies,” he said.
However, he has not felt any pressure to go into the oil and gas industry as a result. Instead, he said he believes the corporate donations simply provide opportunities for students.
“I don’t think really there’s much pressure necessarily to stay here. Like the program I’m doing, we can work in oil and gas, but that’s just one part of it,” he said, noting process engineers are also needed for mining projects, as one alternative.
He is searching for a work term under the oil and gas umbrella.
Other 2013 scholarship winners are: Kayla Snow (MUN), Andrew Ward (Fisheries and Marine Institute) and William Smith (College of the North Atlantic).
As part of Oil and Gas Week, companies active in the local industry sponsor a career day for high school students. Energy Day: Exploring Careers in Oil and Gas is set for Tuesday at the Johnson Geo Centre.
There are also student challenges aimed at the junior high level.
Projects from students from the Eastern School District were on display at the Marine Institute on Monday.
Olivia Parsons, a student at Brother Rice Junior High, focused her project on the role of the environmental reclamation technician.
“I picked this topic because I’m very interested in the environment,” she said.
Being in Grade 9, Parsons said she has not decided on a particular career, but liked the idea of the environmental reclamation technician — what she described as a balance between purely economic business interests and the interests of the community.
“(The oil industry) is really an asset to Canada,” she said.
Alison Batstone, a Grade 7 student at St. Matthew’s school in
St. John’s, had a similar view.
“I think it’s great that they’re including (information on the industry) in our academic program,” Batstone said.
As part of her project, she exchanged emails with an environmental scientist working for Suncor offshore.
“I don’t usually go this far during projects, so I guess it did catch my interest,” Batstone said.